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Sony wins subpoenas revealing visitors to PS3 jailbreaker site

Geohot's followers unmasked

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A federal magistrate has awarded Sony a subpoena allowing the company to obtain the IP addresses of everyone who visited the personal website of PlayStation 3 jailbreaker George Hotz for the past 26 months.

Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero of San Francisco also granted Sony's request for subpoenas on Google, Twitter, and another service for information relating to accounts held by the 21-year-old Hotz, who goes by the moniker GeoHot. Thursday's move comes in a lawsuit Sony filed in January alleging that Hotz and more than 100 other other hackers violated US copyright law by showing others how to bypass technical measures built in to the game console so they would run games and software not authorized by Sony.

Together, the subpoenas allow Sony to obtain a wealth of information about people who aren't named in the complaint and have been accused of no wrongdoing. That includes the IP address of everyone who has visited www.geohot.com since January 2009 and the account names of anyone who has accessed a private video relating to the jailbreak on Hotz's YouTube account. Other subpoenas give Sony access to Tweets posted or published by Hotz, and information about his account on the PSX-Scene website.

In court documents, Sony rejected arguments submitted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that the requests were “overly broad” and violated Hotz's Free Speech rights. Sony said it needed the information to learn the “identity of those who have downloaded the circumvention devices from Mr. Hotz’s website" and to assess “how rampant the access to and use of these circumvention devices has been in California in order to rebut Mr. Hotz’s suggestion that his illicit conduct was not aimed at the forum state.”

Sony attorneys also said they intended to “discover information regarding all persons who currently have access to a 'private video' uploaded by Mr. Hotz demonstrating his use of the circumvention devices on the PS3 System, and those who posted comments in response to the video.” Hotz posted the video on January 7 and later designated it as private, so it could be viewed only by select people.

The Sony document said that Hotz has already agreed not to oppose the subpoenas in exchange for Sony narrowing the scope of some of them.

The subpoenas were reported earlier by Wired.com, which has more here. ®

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